This week I’ve been colouring a strange-looking deer in my Curious Creatures colouring book. Actually, it looks like your everyday deer, but the one big difference is that it has fangs. Well, I say fangs, but they are in reality tusks, rather like an elephant. These deer are called water deer and there are two subspecies – the Chinese water deer and the Korean water deer.
If you read Colin’s blog last year, you may remember that Chinese water deer were introduced to Britain in the late 1800s. As is often the case, there were various escapes and we now have a wild population of them.
There is good and bad news for Chinese water deer. In its native East Asia, its conservation status is classed as vulnerable. However, in the UK it is believed that numbers are rising. Not only this, the UK population is approximately 10% of the world’s as a whole.
It would be remiss of me to not mention the one peculiarity of these deer – the tusks, or canine teeth. In males (known as bucks), these can grow to around 8cm long. Females (called does – as in doe a deer, a female deer) also have them, but they are much smaller. Whilst you may think these teeth might be for ripping apart flesh, you’d be wrong. Water deer are herbivores and the tusks are purely for aggressive purposes when coming up against rival bucks. The teeth are actually quite loose and the deer are able to control movement with their facial muscles. To eat, they are able to move these large obstructive fangs out of the way.
Put two bucks in close proximity, and if it’s mating season, there’ll be trouble! They will pull their lower lips back and bare their fangs at each other. Whichever buck feels most threatened by the other’s spear-like weapons will back down first. It would be a good guess that the longer the tusks, the better chance the buck has of winning.
‘Vampire deer’ are one of the lesser-known creatures. Had you heard of them before you read this blog? If you had, then you must know a great deal about the natural world – so, do you fancy putting your knowledge to the test? We have over sixty quizzes all about animals, plants and other aspects of nature. What’s more, they’re all free to play! Why not take a look and find out how well much you really know!
And, if you’re visiting either Whipsnade Zoo or Woburn Safari Park anytime soon, then keep an eye out for ‘vampire deer’!